Dealing With Bolting Spinach

David Trammel's picture

One of the plants I have been trying to grow successfully is Spinach. I'm not having alot of luck with it because it keeps wanting to "bolt" early. This year we didn't have much heat either, yet this week most of my crop has begun to grow flowers.

I wonder if its not so much heat and sunlight that sends these to flowering, but if a very nutrious growing place will do it too? The planters were heavily composted.

Since I consider green vegetables like spinach and lettuce vital to good nutrition as well I just like eating it, I have been doing some reading on bolt resistant varieties as well as some subsitutes that don't bolt.

Here are some plants I'm looking at:

For Spinachs:

"Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach": Seems to do well with the Summer heat.

"New Zealand Spinach"


For Kales:

"Dwarf Siberian Kale"

"Chinese Kale"


Some others to look at:

"Strawberry Spinach": Berries too!

"Orach": colorful broadleaf plant.

"Black Mustard Greens"

"Green Calaloo Amaranth: Leafy green leaves like spinach but also a nutritious grain too.

"Red Malabar Spinach": Actually a basella

"Golden Purslane"

"Vates Collards"


"French Dandelion"


Has anyone had any experience with these?

I'm having the same problem...and your spinach looks better than mine - mine hasn't grown a whit since I transplanted the seedlings - went straight to bolting. very annoying. I pinch off the flowering stalks to slow the bolting, but I suspect it's a lost cause. Same with my kale - bolted as soon May arrived - and we only had 2 days of sun that whole month! I've never been able to grow spinach - either the bugs get it or it just sits there. Sounds like no one has advice other than "switch to NZ spinach or chard"... sigh...

Sweet Tatorman's picture

David, I think your instincts are good in that you are considering alternatives to spinach and lettuce if you are having problems with bolting early. One thing that a gardener learns with experience is that some things simply do not do well in your location no matter how skilled the gardener. I'd love to have some coffee trees but it ain't gonna happen here. I'm in the warm end of USDA zone 7 at 1000' elevation and I've given up on both spinach and lettuce as the harvest period is too short before bolting. I don't think day length is the problem since a nearby friend who is ~1000' higher and thus has lower daytime maximum temperatures is able to do both spinach and lettuce well into the summer.

From personal experience, my records show that I tried Bloomsdale in 2009 without satisfactory result. Same story for NZ spinach. None of the cole crops do well from me in the Summer months due to insect pressure [mostly but not entirely cabbage moths]. If this is not a problem in your location I would give the ones suggested a try along with Tatsoi mustard which is quite nice as a salad green. Swiss chard was mentioned which does well in the Summer months and is one I always grow. It is both easy and highly productive. I use it mainly as a cooked green though it is OK sparingly as a fresh green. It typically has a bit more of the astringent mouthfeel than spinach which I believe is associated with oxalic acid. By far the best hot weather salad green for me is the Red Malabar Spinach which is one you mentioned. It is easy to grow and productive. Insects don't seem to bother it. As you may know already it is a perennial in the tropics where I have read that it can reach a vine length of 30'. Grown in my area with a typical ~210 freeze free days it reaches 8-10'. Typically I use a trellis about 6' tall so the vines just drape downwards after reaching the top. BTW, it does not have tendrils, it is a twinning type of climbing vine. A few tricks I've learned along the way: It really does not take off until it is hot so I let it use the same trellis that earler served the English peas which have pretty much given up by the time it gets hot. It is a vigorous self seeder so there is no need to replant. The seedlings transplant readily. While the mature vines drop many of their seeds, some are still on the vines at first frost. I drag some of these into an area that I want them in the following year before tilling in the seasons crop residue. I'll have a ready made salad patch the next year. The new plants do not develop a vine-like character until they reach about 6". Until then they form compact plants which I pull up whole as needed for fresh salads. At that stage even the stems can be eaten. The seeds tilled in the prior Fall continue to germinate over a several month period thus yielding a continuous supply until the ones you have transplanted for trellissing are yielding well.

I don't know about growing in your hot and humid climate, but up north here, swiss chard and arugula stand up to the summmer heat. Chard is slightly more bitter than spinach, but I prefer it. Another spinach substitute is the perennial Good King Henry, and it grows well up north here, though I have not tried it myself.

Magpie's picture

In case you were thinking of trying it, New Zealand spinach is a different plant species (native to NZ), which has a passing resemblance to spinach in the leaves, but is otherwise nothing like the plant you're familiar with. It does well in the NZ spring and summer, forming a dense mat of vines and leaves, reaching 1m (~1yd) in diameter if in good conditions. It doesn't have the problem with bolting that spinach does, so you can grow spinach in the late-autumn/winter/early-spring and then switch over to NZ spinach in the late-spring/summer/early-autumn (if your climate is mild enough to allow winter planting)

I've found that the leaves have a more succulent quality than regular spinach, and are slightly saltier and more astringent. If you do grow it, only plant 1-2 plants to try it out--I found that it was tougher on my digestion than spinach, and that I couldn't handle it in dishes such as spanikopita at a 1:1 substitution.

ClareBroommaker's picture

Vates collards are excellent for where you live. They can stand up to the heat and humidity. It's very easy to harvest enough for a meal because the leaves are so large. Being large leaves of substance, they are a hardy vegetable. Also they stand up well to very long cooking. They are mild in flavor. They do attract cabbage white butterflies, but the caterpillars are easier to spot and remove from these leaves as compared to other cabbage family plants.

Malabar spinach is beautiful grown on a fence, and passers by are unlikely to recognize it as food. So it's a good front yard ornamental green. Can be eaten cooked or raw. To tell the truth, I would only grow this again if I feel like I must have greens that others won't recognize as stealable food. It is mucilaginous whether cooked or raw.

I think dandelions are much better grown in a cool summer area, not where you live.

See if you can find the nutritional value of golden purslane as compared to the wild purslane that will show up on the edge of your garden, in sidewalk cracks, and along the sides of my compressed by foot traffic paths. I don't think I'd bother with purchasing seeds unless you just want to peculiar color. Collect seeds from wild sources if you want to control where it lives.

It grows like a weed and self seeds. Lasts through September or in mild weather even longer. Kales often need magnesium in a clay soil. You can use an epsom salts solution. Have you tried pinching off the flowering stalk before the buds open? Works on herbs, might work on spinach.

Blueberry's picture

Try planting a few seeds every ten days. Harvest baby plants 21 days after germination and mature plants in 40-45 days. I find this gives me a good supply of fresh salad greens until it gets to hot.

Serinde's picture

I do the same with lettuces (and peas). Really does make a difference. Rich soil will give good leaf growth, but it's the heat that makes them bolt (and spoils the taste at the same time). Then they're only fit for the compost bin.

lathechuck's picture

If you have a cold frame, one way to use it is to sow spinach in late summer. It won't die if it freezes (from my experience, in central Maryland), as long as nothing disturbs the frozen leaves. In the spring, when the sky gets bright before the days get warm, the spinach will grow enough to be harvested before it gets hot enough to bolt.

I don't think that rich soil encourages bolting. From a "plant psychology" perspective, rich soil is good for slowly growing a big plant (before bolting), while poor soil is a place to throw up some seeds ASAP and hope they land in better soil. Certainly my weeds flower sooner and smaller in poor soil than in rich soil!